Fujita’s anger at Goodell justified

Fujita’s anger at Goodell is justified

By Pat McManamon

Scott Fujita is plenty angry at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and it appears for good reason.

For months, Goodell claimed that Fujita pledged money to a pay-to-injure scheme in New Orleans. That led Goodell to suspend Fujita for three games, and it led many (me included) to write some things based on what was released that did not reflect well on Fujita.

Through it all, Fujita insisted he never contributed to any pool designed to injure another player. Instead, he said he gave to pools that rewarded big plays — forced fumbles, big special teams plays, etc.

This week, Fujita presented evidence to back his point, and Goodell ruled Fujita actually did not contribute to the bounty pool.

But Goodell suspended him for one game anyway — for not turning in Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams after hearing him talk about the alleged bounty.

“If you had spoken up,” Goodell wrote in a letter to Fujita, “perhaps other players would have refused to participate and the consequences with which we are now dealing could have been avoided.”

Goodell went on in a pretty scathing letter to say:

“I believe that everyone in the NFL, including players, has an obligation to promote fair and safe play, and to protect the integrity of the game. Your failure to act contributed to allowing this program to remain in place not only during the 2009 season, but for two additional seasons after that. There also remains the matter of your admitting to having essentially run your own rewards program, separate and apart from the program in which Coach Williams was involved, in which you paid or offered to pay teammates for ‘big plays’ such as forced fumbles or sacks. As you described the payments at our recent meeting, they were entirely independent of Coach Williams, the Club, or any Club Affiliate. As you further noted, you would pay such pledges only if the Saints won the game. This conduct is itself a violation of Article IX, Sections 9.1(c)(8) and 9.3(F) of the Constitution and Bylaws.”

Fujita clearly was honest with Goodell, yet Goodell stretched to bring the hammer down — albeit for one game.

None of this sat well with Fujita, who basically said he was suspended for not turning in his coach, and that is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Imagine if the league forced every player to turn in a coach or assistant coach who broke — or seemed to break — the rules. Consider how players are stashed on injured reserve, or the games played with the injury report. Every Patriots player for years could have been suspended for a game for not turning in Bill Belichick during the Spygate scandal. There were 52 other players on the Saints. Should they also be suspended for a game, like Fujita?

Fujita told the media on Wednesday that player safety is personal to him, and it is. One of his better friends has ALS, and it could have been caused by football. Fujita has worked tirelessly for Steve Gleason while he has had to deal with public reports about things he didn’t do.

Fujita has never been known as a dirty player, yet since March his name has been dragged through the mud for what turns out to be false reasons.

Fujita told reporters that player safety is about “perception and liability” to the league and Goodell. Little wonder that Fujita released this even more scathing response to Goodell:

“I’m pleased the Commissioner has finally acknowledged that I never participated in any so-called “bounty” program, as I’ve said for the past seven months.

“However, the condescending tone used in his redetermination letter was neither accurate nor productive. Additionally, I am now purportedly being suspended for failing to confront my former defensive coordinator for his inappropriate use of language.

“This seems like an extremely desperate attempt to punish me. I also think it sets a dangerous precedent when players can be disciplined for not challenging the behavior of their superiors. This is an absolute abuse of the power that’s been afforded to the Commissioner.

“For me, the issue of player health & safety is personal. For the league and the Commissioner, it’s about perception & liability.

“The Commissioner says he is disappointed in me. The truth is, I’m disappointed in him.

“His positions on player health and safety since a 2009 congressional hearing on concussions have been inconsistent at best. He failed to acknowledge a link between concussions & post-career brain disease, pushed for an 18-game regular season, committed to a full season of Thursday night games, has continually challenged players’ rights to file workers compensation claims for on-the-job injuries, and he employed incompetent replacement officials for the start of the 2012 season.

“His actions or lack thereof are by the league’s own definition, ‘conduct detrimental.’

“My track record on the issue of player health & safety speaks for itself. And clearly, as I just listed, the Commissioner’s does too.”

Fujita raises points few are willing to raise, including the inclusion of a Thursday night game when it’s pretty evident three days does not give players adequate time to recover when they played on Sunday.

His argument about workers compensation also took some guts.

In this very public spat, Fujita has long maintained that once the facts were out he would be exonerated.

At this point he has been exonerated, yet he’s still suspended.

He can appeal, but it’s all very, very odd.

This entry was posted on October 10, 2012 at 10:09 pm at http://fanmonster.com/?p=3855&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fujitas-anger-at-goodell-is-justified
Filed in: Press Room • Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

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Scott Fujita

Scott Fujita was born in Ventura, California on April 28, 1979. He was a three-sport standout at Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard, CA before heading to the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated with Honors in Political Science and earned a Masters degree in Education.

Fujita has played in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. Read more